Daily Blog • January 7th



Alabama vs Notre Dame
Projected Box Score
ALABAMA (12-1) 133
8:30 pm • ESPN • Sun Life Stadium • Miami Gardens, FL

College football fans and TV executives couldn’t have asked for a better matchup here as Bama tries to stamp its legacy as a dynasty with 3 titles in 4 years while Notre Dame tries to recapture its former glory. The Irish are 5-1 vs the Tide but they have not met since ‘87. They did meet twice in bowl games with the title on the line and ND won both including the ‘74 Orange, 13-11. Bama HC Saban is looking for his 4th title as HC which would cement his status as one of the all-time greats and he is 7-6 overall in bowls (3-0 in title games) including 4-1 SU/ATS at Bama. The Tide have not played here since ‘99. Kelly, in his 3rd season, has the Irish undefeated after playing a schedule that has had them log more than 9,000 miles from Ireland to LA and from Norman to Boston. ND, gunning for its first National Title since ‘88, is making its 1st BCS bowl appearance since ‘06 (0-3 in BCS bowls) and has never played in Sun Life Stadium (5x at Orange Bowl). After an NCAA record 9 game bowl losing streak, ND has gone 2-1 in its last 3 post season appearances and Kelly is 3-2 in bowls including an Orange Bowl loss in ‘08.The two have one common opponent in UM as the Tide beat the Wolves 41-14 in the opener (outgaining them 431-269) while ND won 13-6 thanks to 6 UM TO’s (only game all year ND was outgained). ND did play 10 bowl opponents outscoring them by an avg of 26-12 (+181 ypg) while Bama played 7 bowl foes outscoring them by an avg of 32-16 (+77 ypg).

Bama's All-American OL trio

The Tide’s #15 offense is driven by QB McCarron who led the NCAA in pass eff with a 26-3 ratio. Starting with last year’s championship game, he has become much more than a game manager as the Tide have one of the more balanced attacks (225 ypg run vs 215 pass) in the country. The 1-2 punch at RB features two 1,000 yard rushers including the veteran Lacy (power) being spelled by the super true frosh Yeldon (speed). At WR another frosh, Cooper, easily led the way recording more rec yards than the #2-3 rec’s combined. TE Williams is used mainly in the run game but is a threat at the goal line (3 td’s). The best OL in the country (avg 6’5” 314) with 2 Sr starters paved the way for 5.6 ypc (best in 20+ years) while allowing 7.6% sacks. They have 3 All-Americans while another is a PS#1. The Tide D which has been the main reason for their great success over the last 5 years is #1 again but doesn’t have the star power that past Bama teams featured. NG Williams leads a DL that has great size and depth but lacks a true pass rusher. Their LB’s are #1, #2 and #3 in tackles but Mosley had 43 more than any other player. The secondary features Thorpe winner CB Milliner as the Tide have my #3 pass eff D (166, 54%, 7-17). Last year the ST’s were a liability (#50) but this year they have improved to #13. It starts with short range K Shelley who is perfect from inside 40 while long-range K Foster has 3 FG’s of 50+. P Mandell has a net of 39.2 (#24) while the KR unit avg 24.8 ypr (give up 21.9) and the PR unit avg 10.2 ypr (give up 7.7).

Notre Dame's 1-2 punch at the RB spot

As with most Kelly teams, the QB position was shuffled around as last year’s starter Rees (suspended opener) was used much like a relief pitcher coming in to lead victories over Purdue, UM and Stanford and started the BYU game as Golson was out with injury. However, it’s been Golson’s show as he has gradually improved his decision-making (7-2 ratio last 4) while the playbook has opened up allowing him to use his legs (-11 rush yards 1st 4 games, 316 yards last 7). ND also features a 1-2 punch at RB in Riddick/Wood and while Wood is more of a home-run threat (6.7), Riddick is more versatile (35 rec). The rec corps is led by Mackey winner Eifert who (all-time rec leader for a ND TE) at 6’6” is a nightmare for opposing D’s. The OL (avg 6’4” 304) excelled paving the way for 203 ypg and ND’s best ypc (5.0) since ‘93 while allowing just 16 sacks (4.5%). Overall ND has my #29 offense. The Irish’s strength, of course, is their #3 D which has allowed just 10 td’s all year (#1 NCAA) and their 27.8 ypp is the best I’ve seen in at least 20 years. It starts with the massive 3-man DL (6’4” 312) led by soph Tuitt who had 12 sacks (most by an underclassmen in ND history) and they give up just 92 rush ypg (3.2) and just 2 rushing td’s ON THE YEAR! The LB corps naturally is led by Heisman finalist Te’o who has had 3 straight 100+ tackle seasons and his 7 int’s are the most by a LB in the NCAA in 12 years. The secondary was a concern coming into the year with 3 new full-time starters including 2 frosh but finished as my #10 pass eff D (194, 59%, 7-16 ratio). The #34 ST’s are led by K Brindza who set a single season school record with 23 FG’s on the year. P Turk avg’d 40.6 (38.0 net) but the return units are mediocre at best.

This clearly is a dream matchup for fans pitting two of college football's most storied programs. The reason this will be one of the most watched bowl games ever is: you either love the SEC or you hate the SEC. And you either love the Irish or you hate the Irish. These two are similar in that both have solid D's with great front 7's, both like to run the football but both are balanced offenses (200 yards rush and pass). Golson has improved all season long and gives Notre Dame a run option out of the QB position. I think whoever has more success passing will get the win here and I like that Nick Saban and AJ McCarron have experience in title games. In my opinion, Alabama is clearly the better team and is used to the grand stage but Notre Dame has the ability to keep it closer than many expect. This undoubtedly will be a great game. Tide cement their dynasty tag becoming only the third team in NCAA history to win three National Titles in a span of 4 years.